This is a little detailed, I am hoping to ask the right questions to get some ideas as to what to study next. I am working at filling in the blanks for an ancestor who started out life in bondage in the Richmond Virginia area around 1854. The family story is that he ran away (probably with a group of contrabands) and became a drummer boy. He was adopted by a barber named William Comer. After the war they went west to Fort Sully, Dakota Terr. Some information about William Comer is in a book about African Americans in North Dakota, but not what I'm seeking. By then young James was ready to go on his own. William stayed in Bismarck, ND. James went to Spokane and Idaho to barber and to prospect. He traveled a lot in Idaho, and eventually settled in Atlanta, Idaho until he died in 1933.
What I am hoping to figure out is how to get a paper trail about his trip west with William Comer. I can't be sure that William Comer was a soldier or if he worked as a barber for the army like he did at Fort Sully. I know that William Comer had land in Maryland when he died but that's all the info I have about him now. Everything from Bismarck forward can be shown in census records, mining claims, city directories, etc.
I hope to figure out a way to track William Comer from the east to the west because young James came with him. Any advice would be appreciated. I know he was very young to be a drummer boy, but living in bondage as a young child on a plantation made him grow up fast. Does this strategy make sense?
Thanks for any advice.